NBA playoffs wrap 2018: Celtics comeback sinks 76ers

Boston Celtics overcame a 22-point deficit to beat Philadelphia 76ers, while James scored 43 to lead Cleveland Cavaliers to a win in Toronto.

Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) drives to the basket past Philadelphia 76ers centre Joel Embiid (right) on Thursday.   -  AP

When 76ers jumped out to a 22-point lead on Celtics midway through the second quarter in Game 2, it looked like the talented young team some picked as a dark horse to win the NBA title.

When it promptly blew most of that 22-point lead in just a few minutes, it looked like an inexperienced young team that is still at least a year away from a championship.

Celtics overcame that early deficit to win, 108-103, and go up 2-0 on 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Philadelphia hosts Game 3 Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.

The situation certainly looked dire for Celtics earlier, as it trailed 48-26 with a little more than six minutes remaining before halftime. But Boston finished the half on a 25-8 run to cut the halftime deficit to five. 76ers fell apart in those closing minutes, giving Celtics too many open looks, and its own shots looked rushed.

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It's not a reach to say this game was won before halftime with that run. The rally fired up Celtics, got the crowd back in the game, and put all the pressure on Philadelphia starting the second half. "That was only the second quarter, and we knew the game was far from over," Jayson Tatum told TNT about the comeback.

Boston continued its surge in the third quarter to take the lead, and while 76ers kept it within a one-possession game late, Celtics held on. Boston put six players in double figures in scoring, led by Tatum with 21 points and Terry Rozier with 20. 76ers was led by J. J. Redick (23 points), Robert Covington (22) and Joel Embiid (20).

LEBRON JAMES, KEVIN LOVE TOO MUCH FOR RAPTORS

For the second straight game, LeBron James and Cavaliers broke Raptors’ hearts. At least this time it didn’t wait until overtime to do it. James scored 43 points to lead Cavs to an easy 128-110 victory over Raptors in Toronto to put Cleveland up 2-0 in its Eastern Conference semifinal.

Game 3 is Saturday in Cleveland at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Toronto played well for most of the first half, building a nine-point lead just inside the five-minute mark. But Cavs closed to within three points at the half, and opened up the second half on fire. James scored 27 points after the break, as Cavs built an insurmountable lead. He dished out 14 assists and had eight rebounds.

Kevin Love (31 points, 11 rebounds) also came up big for Cavaliers.

STUD OF THE NIGHT

Basketball fans, players, analysts and everyone else can debate the whole "Is LeBron James the greatest player of all time?" question. Let's put that aside just to appreciate his brilliance in the here and now. Leading a team that is not as deep or talented as recent Cavs squads, James looked unstoppable on Tuesday. He's averaging 34.5 points, 13.5 assists and 9.5 rebounds in the two semifinals games.

DUD OF THE NIGHT

Ben Simmons: What happened? Simmons did not play well in the first half, and sat most of the second half as T. J. McConnell took over the point for 76ers. Simmons finished with only one point, five turnovers and a terrible minus-23 rating.

HIGHLIGHT

Jayson Tatum explodes for the dunk.

WHAT'S NEXT

Warriors (2-0) at Pelicans (0-2) 8 p.m. ET — Pelicans kept it close in Game 2, but Warriors rode the emotional wave of Stephen Curry's return (28 points in 27 minutes) to dispatch Pelicans. Even playing at home, Pelicans might not have enough firepower to keep up with the defending NBA champion.

Rockets (1-1) at Jazz (1-1) 10:30 p.m. ET — Jazz has been the surprise of the post-season, and winning Game 2 in Houston was huge. But Rockets, which led the NBA with 15.3 made 3s per game this season, probably won't shoot a dismal 10 of 37 from behind the arc again.